By Richard Stark
Published by Mysterious Press
December 2002; 089296779X; 288 pages
When the alarm went off, Parker and Armiston were far to the rear of the warehouse, Armiston with the clipboard, checking off the boxes they'd want. The white cartons were stacked six feet high to make aisles that stretched to the unpainted concrete block side walls of the building. A wider central aisle ran straight to the loading dock where they'd come in, dismantling the alarms and raising the overhead door.
Then what was this alarm, five minutes after they'd broken in? "That idiot Bruhl," Armiston said, throwing the clipboard away in exasperation. "He went into the office."
Parker was already loping toward the central aisle. Behind him, Armiston cried, "God damn it! Fingerprints!" and ran back to pick up the clipboard.
Parker turned into the main aisle, running, and saw far away the big door still open, the empty truck backed against it. George Walheim, the lockman who'd got them in here, stood by the open doorway, making jerky movements, not quite running away.
These were all generic pharmaceuticals in here, and Armiston had the customer, at an airfield half an hour north. The plan was, by tomorrow these medicines would be offshore, more valuable than in the States, and the four who'd done the job would earn a nice percentage.
But that wasn't going to happen. Bruhl, brought in by Armiston, was supposed to have gotten a forklift truck, so he could run it down the main aisle to pick up the cartons Parker and Armiston had marked. Instead of which, he'd gone to see what he could lift from the office. But Walheim hadn't cleared the alarm system in the office.
As Parker ran down the long aisle, Armiston a dozen paces behind, Bruhl appeared, coming fast out of the first side aisle down there. Walheim tried to clutch at him, but Bruhl hit him with a backhand that knocked the thinner man down.
Parker yelled, "Bruhl! Stop!" but Bruhl kept going. He jumped to the ground outside the loading dock, next to the truck, then ran toward the front of it. He was going to take it, leave the rest of them here on foot.
There was no way to stop him, no way to get there in time. Walheim was still on hands and knees, looking for his glasses, when the truck jolted away from the loading dock. Outside was the darkness of four A.M., spotted with thin lights high on the corners of other buildings in this industrial park.
The truck, big rear doors flapping, heeled hard on the right turn at the end of the blacktop lot, Bruhl still accelerating. The empty truck was topheavy, it wasn't going to make it.
Walheim was on his feet, patting his glasses into place, when Parker ran by. "What do we-?" But Parker was gone, jumping off the loading dock to run away leftward as behind him the truck crashed over onto its side and scraped along the pavement until it ran into a utility pole, knocking it over. The few lights around here went dark.
There was nothing in this area but the industrial park, empty at night. No houses, no bars, no churches, no schools. There were no pedestrians out here at four in the morning, no cars driving by.
Parker had run less than a block when he heard the sirens, far behind him but coming fast. There was nowhere to go to cover, no point trying to break into another of these buildings. Fleets of trucks here and there stood in lines behind high fences.
Parker kept running. Armiston and Walheim were wherever they wanted to be, and Parker tried to keep the sound of sirens behind him. But the sirens spread, left and right and then everywhere, slicing and dicing the night.
Parker ran down the middle of an empty street and ahead of him headlights came around a corner, a bright searchlight beam fastened on him. He stopped. He put his hands on top of his head.
© 2002 Richard Stark
Parker's back in jail, but not just any old jail; it's the correctional center, where people without bail wait before and during their trial. So Parker's first order of business is to build a network among these cons and break on through to the other side. Once out, he gets involved in a heist set up by one of his co-conspirators, but the deal heads south, and Parker and his fellow escapees are running for their lives. A cast of cops, busybodies, snitches, and weak links quickly have the walls closing in on him. For Parker, the ultimate jailbreak is about to begin.
Richard Stark, who is also Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Donald E. Westlake, lives in upstate New York.